There is a story on this very site titled “ Dreamy Vanities,” spotlighting several very dreamy vanities. But knowing the size of most contemporary urban bathrooms, dressing rooms, and bedrooms, simply having the space to fit a vanity would be a dream. But while we're on the subject, why not turn the clock back a bit? Many of the 20th century’s most glamorous stars did quite a bit of posing in front of their vanity mirrors and in their backstage dressing rooms, resulting in an abundance of photos to lose oneself in with the advent of computers. The shots are luxe-yet-candid and a fair amount of envy-inducing fun. Behold…
Ahead of her time not only with hair bleach, Jean Harlow posed while dry brushing her face in front of a mirror way back in 1935. Later on, a somewhat haughtier and heavier-browed Ava Gardner checked her reflection at a table that prominently displayed Guerlain’s Shalimar. Brigitte Bardot was also a fan of the scent, albeit in spray cologne form—it can be seen in its mid-century ‘parapluie’ (umbrella-shaped) bottle on her dressing table (though the French actress was reportedly most loyal to the label’s Jicky).
Grace Kelly hoarded bobby pins despite her effortless blond bob, while Anita Ekberg of La Dolce Vita fountain-scene fame seems to have chain-smoked her way through wig fittings. A young, fresh-faced Elizabeth Taylor preferred donuts and cut-crystal perfume vials aplenty (evidence of her pre- White Diamonds scent fixation).
Pixie-haired Mia Farrow helped her hairdresser along with a handheld mirror, a stockpile of hairspray, and an apparently very hungry Dustin Hoffman by her side for moral support. Low-maintenance British singer Marianne Faithfull relaxed backstage with a cigarette, a button-down, and some clear nail polish (pants? Really, who needs 'em? ). Apparent multi-tasker, Barbra Streisand kept a TV, telephone, and several disks of Max Factor Pan-Cake at the ready, while steamy framed headshots of then-husband Elliott Gould looked on approvingly. Finally, HIStory Tour-era Michael Jackson kept the most enigmatic makeup case of all—several black Sharpies, a Sherlock Holmes-style magnifying glass, and orange Gatorade in a plastic cup. After all, getting ready’s a workout—you gotta stay hydrated.
Images via Getty. Wan't more? Read up on what silent film stars used on set.